Judge: Girl Can Attend School With Medical Marijuana Patch

Judge: Girl Can Attend School With Medical Marijuana Patch

By Kelly Burch 01/23/18

An Illinois judge’s ruling allowed an 11-year-old girl to return to school with the medication that makes her daily life easier. 

Image: 
a girl hugging her parent as they walk to school

Eleven-year-old Ashley Surin of Schaumburg, Illinois and her parents were thrilled when they discovered that medical marijuana could help control her seizures, which even powerful prescription medications were unable to accomplish. However, they were disheartened when Ashley's school said that she could not attend class with her treatments—she uses a medical marijuana patch, oil, and lotion—because of school policy that bans marijuana on school grounds. 

But earlier this month, a judge’s ruling allowed Ashley to return to school with the medication that makes her daily life easier. 

"They've changed Ashley's life today and they may've also changed the lives for other children for the better,” said Darcy Kriha, the attorney who represented Ashley on behalf of the school district, according to CNN

The school supported Ashley, but reportedly feared the legal consequences if she was allowed to attend school while using her medical cannabis treatment. School officials were also concerned that staff, including the school nurse, could lose their accreditation or face other legal repercussions if they helped Ashley with her medications, which remain illegal under federal law

"We, unfortunately, in some cases, have to abide by state and federal law that contradicts what the school's job is for students and what our obligations are to serve medically fragile and ill students," Kriha said. 

Ashley's parents sued the school district in order to be exempt from laws that forbid marijuana on school grounds. The federal judge ruled that Ashley should be allowed to return to school after missing several weeks, and the state attorney general agreed that staff members who assist her should be free from legal consequences. 

The emergency ruling only applied in Ashley's case, but there will be another hearing this week to see whether the case will move forward and potentially have broader implications.  

Ashley's case highlights one of many complexities of state medical marijuana programs. Of the 29 states and Washington, D.C. where medical cannabis is legal, only Colorado, Maine, New Jersey and Washington state allow students to use medical marijuana products on school grounds. 

Ashley’s parents say that medical cannabis has changed Ashley’s life after she developed a seizure disorder following cancer. Ashley tried prescription anti-seizure medications, but the powerful side effects had a negative impact. When a doctor suggested diet changes and medical cannabis, the family saw vast improvements for the first time. 

"The two together are a golden cure for her," Ashley’s mother, Maureen Surin, said after the ruling. "She can think better, walk better, talk better. Her brain used to be like in a cloud. Now she can think better and is more alert and she can interact."

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

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